Over here at MTTN, we always take pleasure in talking to alumni who’ve returned to college. Recently, a trio of friends, all of them alumni of MIT, was in Manipal to preside over MIT’s Diamond Jubilee celebration and we got a chance to talk to them.
Anant J Talaulicar, Chairman & Managing Director – Cummins India Ltd.
Sachin Menon, Managing Director at Menon Pistons Ltd
Thomas Cherukara, Chief Managing Director at CBC Group India
Please tell us a little bit about your time here at MIT. How did it feel to come back here?
Talaulicar: Well, a great thing is that the quadrangle hasn’t changed at all (laughs), the corridors are the same. Lots of great memories here for us.
When I first came to Manipal, I was in for a culture shock. Growing up in a small town, I wasn’t used to how Manipal worked, I was a lost child here. And back then we had only the most basic of facilities. Now you have beautiful hostels, messes, and buildings, but we had to learn to adapt to the hard way of living. And that really taught me a lot and made me that much stronger as an individual, it was like the forging we studied about, I went through the process of getting forged here. Now (gesturing at the plush lobby of the 5 star Valley View hotel) in our jobs, we’re used to 5-star hotels and the luxury, but I can still comfortably sleep on the floor without a second of hesitation and that ability to adapt is important, Manipal taught me that.
Menon: What I noticed today is that there’s an urgency to connect with the industry, and the faculty is trying very proactively to achieve that. Exposure to the industry is something that’s highly valued, but in our days it wasn’t like that, we didn’t care about all that (smiles). We had a lot of fun in Manipal.
Cherukara: When we were in college, we had a lot of freedom, there was no time by which we had to return to our rooms, and we were free to do what we wanted. We used to travel to Goa a lot, (seeing a look of mild surprise on our faces), yes, even back then. We used to rent bikes and ride to Kudremukh. Once on a trip, my batchmates found a jeep with the keys still in it and took it for a ride, they left it safely back for the owner or the police to find of course (laughs). My Manipal life, those five years, was undoubtedly the best period in my life. I saw the world due to this institution, and I am deeply grateful.
Talaulicar: I spent a lot of my spare time in Manipal reading up about the religions and spirituality, from all the books in the library here, and those principles have shaped my life. The value of integrity — you always have to keep your word. Embracing diversity — unfortunately, in our society, we’ve been taught to respect people who’re just like us but we have to learn to connect with all kinds of human beings, to open our minds. After opening ourselves up to all these different ideas, we come to realize that love is the essence of every religion and spirituality. What will change you the most is self-realization, coming to an understanding about what energizes you. After all, in the end, you can’t take anything with you, but you can leave a lot of good behind. We have to go inside ourselves, deep into the swimming pool that we can’t see in a mirror, and when we do that, when we understand who we are, it’ll bring us nothing but joy. We get to see our connection to everything around us, and we have to then bring that love to our work, our relationships, and our lives. There will be no negativity, only gratitude.
Cherukara: Anant and I were great friends in college, we were in the same class and there was a difference of just one between our roll numbers. We didn’t have any of the modern devices for communication back then but we still learned to stay in touch and maintain the relationships we’d built up in college, my advice to young students would be to keep in touch with your friends, to keep the relationships alive.
Talaulicar: We have to pay close attention to the relationships we have and value them. You have to live in the moment, and then you can form friendships that stand the test of time (gestures at the three of them on the couch).
Menon: And I’ve learned a lot from my friends, some of whom aren’t in my life now, but I find myself, now, thinking about how they’ve changed my life. The student leaders who were at the forefront of every strike that happened, did they have an innate sense of leadership? What drove them to lead at such a young age? They’ve taught me and have gone on their way and I couldn’t be more thankful for them. You learn how to handle people. Keep your eyes open, things might not make sense now, but a few years, a few decades down the line, everything will make sense.
Talaulicar: We have to be ourselves, without masks. It’s important that we experience all kinds of successes and failures. A balance is very necessary for life. Do everything that you do with excellence, that alone will free you from all stresses. And we have to realize that life is not about competing and comparing ourselves with others, if you think that, you’re going down the wrong path. We’re all doing our own thing, and we can only compete with ourselves. We accept everything when we’re young, like a sponge, and one of the things we have to do later is to unlearn some of that, to get rid of the garbage and relearn things, to adapt.
Menon: These four or five years of your life will test you, you have to own your skills, the knowledge that you have and the actions that you perform shouldn’t have a gap. We have to be careful that our meaning and purpose in life do not fade away with time. Whatever you’ve learned, once you get knowledge, make sure you act. This is the time to do what you want to do. Without participating, you can never win, make sure you’re active, and move with the right people, they’ll take you to the right places. And read a lot, but don’t compare yourself to the people you read about, it’s important to be yourself.
Don’t die at 32 and be buried at 75
In your speeches today, I noticed that you spoke about music as a passion, how important was it in your lives?
Talaulicar: (with a solemn nod of the head) Very important. Music was something I always had, and to be honest I would have been a little broken without my passion. We all have to have a passion, it can be anything! Some of us might like to see our friends happy, making them laugh can be our passion. I’d left singing for a while in between and when Tommy (Cherukara) and I met up years later, he pulled up his Sitar and just like that I was singing again. It’s very crucial to have that space into which we can retreat.
One thing that was apparent that day, both in their quadrangle speeches and their interviews was that as successful in life as they are, they chose to speak about positivity, love, kindness, and life more than anything else. And that in itself was very telling about the characters of these great people. They bring hope, inspiration, and are beacons of light for those who follow in their footsteps here in their Alma Mater and we thank them for their guidance and wish them even more happiness in their future.
-Vishnu Deva for MTTN
Photography by Omkar Pradhan